RARA-AVIS: Re: Disappearance of the private film and the detective film in gene

From: Mark D. Nevins (nevins_mark@yahoo.com)
Date: 20 Mar 2009

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    One possible hypothesis for said disappearance in popular culture, though I'm offering this idea tentatively, is the current status of the private eye or (non-police) detective in real life.

    Hammett himself was a Pinkerton, and was writing at a time (as I understand it) when the "private detective" was an important and viable law-enforcing alternative to often corrupt police departments (or, at least, Hammett's readers could remember a time when such was the case).

    I'm not old enough to know what the status or general impression of the private investigator was in the 1950s-1970s, but it has to be more impressive than what the impression would probably be for the average person of the last 20 or so years: that a P.I. is someone you hire to see if your spouse is cheating on you or to do other not-terribly-heroic-or-interesting things.

    Hasn't the P.I. by our time become a relic of times gone by, or a cliche, or even a parody? Is it any surprise then that we don't see many "serious" books or films dealing with them? Or that other types or stock characters (the good cop; the bad cop; the rogue agent; the mercenary; the special investigator for the police or the government; the citizen who takes matters into his/her own hands; etc.) who seem more credible or "realistic" to us have taken their place?

    Mark Nevins

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